On June 30, 2016, a team of researchers led by Thomas Buchanan, MD, Michele Kipke, PhD, and Jonathan Samet, MD, of the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California (USC) received a prestigious Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA) from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The award, which was made to USC and Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA), is the second in the history of the two institutions. It will provide $36.6 million over five years to support continuation of the Southern California Clinical and Translational Science Institute (SC CTSI), the hub for community engagement in clinical and translational research at USC and CHLA. The grant will allow the SC CTSI to continue to provide critical resources to help advance cutting-edge research and scientific breakthroughs in patient and community health, with a special focus on diverse and vulnerable populations.
“This was a major team effort,” said Thomas Buchanan, MD, director of the SC CTSI. “The SC CTSI has been a driving force behind the development of a culture that translates scientific discoveries into improved health care and health in the communities that we serve. The award will let us continue this important work. It also secures our place in the national CTSA consortium, where our faculty members can participate in multi-site clinical trials and compete for other research awards open only to CTSA institutions.”
Since its initial funding in 2008, SC CTSI has supported more than 800 investigators and nurtured research at USC and CHLA, successfully building interdisciplinary teams, advancing drug and device development, supporting clinical trials, engaging diverse communities in research, and training clinical and translational researchers. Its efforts have contributed more than $90M in new extramural funding, more than 500 scientific publications, more than 80 patent applications and three start-ups, in addition to tangible health improvements in surrounding communities.
Michele Kipke, PhD, who co-directs the SC CSTI with Buchanan and leads the Community Engagement group, added, “We are placing increasing emphasis on clinical and community trials, where the ‘rubber meets the road’ in transforming research into solutions for better health. We want to make a real difference in the health of the communities we serve.”
Jonathan Samet, MD, principal investigator of the Institutional Career Development component of the new NIH award, explained, “The award provides crucial resources for early career development in clinical and translational research. It is absolutely critical for developing the human capital that the Keck School of Medicine faculty need to succeed.”
The NIH award will support a wide range of new initiatives including:
• Collaboration with USC’s Institute for Creative Technology to create “virtual humans” – an interface similar to a sophisticated computer game – to engage children and their families in clinical research.
• Working closely with the Los Angeles Department of Health and Human Services to transform the way health care is delivered to vulnerable populations.
• Training community members to provide crucial support in order to increase engagement of under-represented persons in clinical trials.
• Use of social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter to increase recruitment and compliance in clinical trials.
• Development of robust electronic platforms for data warehousing and clinical trials management.
Senior leaders of USC and CHLA were quick to praise this significant accomplishment. “Receiving this award is a hallmark of a leading research university,” said Michael Quick, USC’s provost and senior vice president for academic affairs. “This is exactly the kind of work we want to be doing: creating significant advances in scientific research and patient care among underserved populations.”
Keck School of Medicine Interim Dean Rohit Varma stated, "Translation of research into better health care is a top priority for us. This major NIH award, while highlighting the strength of our faculty, will also be an important catalyst for our faculty in driving translational research.” CEO of Keck Medicine of USC, Thomas Jackiewicz, added, “A hallmark of a top-level academic medical center is its ability to integrate outstanding clinical care with research and education. The new CTSA will be a very strong resource to drive this integration.”
Paul Viviano, president and CEO of CHLA, commented, “The SC CTSI is a wonderful example of the strong collaboration between USC and CHLA. This renewed support from the National Institutes of Health will permit us to strengthen our efforts to accelerate the pace with which research discoveries from both campuses can be translated into benefits for patient and community health, especially for diverse and underserved populations.”
The Clinical and Translational Science Award program was established by the National Institutes of Health in 2006. The program provides funding to more than 60 major research universities to support the development, conduct, and improvement of clinical and translational research.